Memories of Stanford PALM

Here you are again, self, with the memories of your graduate studies in East Asian Studies at Stanford.

You had studied Chinese in college.  Chinese was not a language offering at the Ateneo, you had to cross-enroll in UP.   To get to UP, you had to catch a jeep from Katipunan Road.  You did this for two years, expertly flagging down tricycles that brought you from the Ateneo Admin Building to Gate # 3 (a very looong walk, don’t even start), and you braved the astonishment of your classmates who zoomed by in their shiny cars (which had all been polished to a prodigious shine by the tsupers, or drivers).

You thought you would return from graduate studies in the  States, and slay all with your vast erudition, your unparalleled mastery of Chinese language (i.e., Mandarin) and literature (early 20th century Chinese literature, mainly) and art!

This was your life at Stanford.  The Chinese classes were 8 a.m. every day in Meyer.  8 a.m. Monday to Friday.  When it started to get really cold and dark, in October, you froze as you biked to class.  Yet, you were inspired by the likes of Hugh Shapiro, mop-haired adorable, who could be seen in the language lab at all hours, listening to Mandarin tapes.

You also sat in on PALM, dutifully packing your sandwich (overburdened with alfalfa sprouts, a distinctly American touch) to partake of the back-and-forth.

For those who have not had the great good fortune to study East Asian Studies at Stanford, and who may be unfamiliar with PALM, it’s short for Program for Advanced Language Maintenance.

Self will never forget the time she decided to be brave and jump into the discussion, which she was fairly sure was about cooking, because of the frequent recurrence of the word “dan” which self translated as “egg,” and her comment was met with the most powerful, inscrutable silence, until someone leaned across the table and very gently said, “Marianne, we are talking about the ATOM BOMB.”

The word “dan” also means “atom bomb”???

So when self thought one of her classmates was saying “The egg is ready to eat,” what he was really saying was:  “The atom bomb is about to explode” ???

Self could barely swallow the remnants of her sandwich after that.  No wonder the brown-haired girl who self knew only by her Chinese name, Tu-an Chiu (Undergrad:  Princeton or Yale), kept looking at self with such scorn.

After that, while her fellow classmates went on to do dutiful time in Beijing, self stayed put in Hulme 6-F (until she acquired an awful roommate, Linda K, whose appalling habits drove her out), pondering the question of whether or not to push on towards the Ph.D. or whether to find some other means of maintaining a livelihood (other than marrying well).  In the end, self opted for the easier route.

And now —  TA-RA!  —  she is a writer.  Which turns out to have been a hard path, after all.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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